Shyness online: the experience and treatment of shyness in an online environment

Saunders, P 2012, Shyness online: the experience and treatment of shyness in an online environment, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Health Sciences, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Shyness online: the experience and treatment of shyness in an online environment
Author(s) Saunders, P
Year 2012
Abstract Shyness is a debilitating experience for a large proportion of the population. Shyness can be defined as a form of excessive self-focus, a preoccupation with one’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions and may vary from mild social awkwardness to total social inhibition. This thesis explores shyness and the role of the Internet in the experience and treatment of shyness. There are three research aims of this thesis: (1) to examine the online behaviour, motivations and attitudes of people who are shy and determine what impact context has on shyness; (2) to adapt an offline shyness treatment manual for online delivery; and (3) to conduct a randomised controlled trial to examine the efficacy of an online intervention for shyness. To address these aims three studies were conducted. In the first study, four hypotheses were proposed: (1) it was hypothesised that individuals who are shy would be more motivated to use the Internet for social reasons compared to non-shys; (2) it was hypothesised that individuals who are shy would be more likely to perceive the Internet to have a positive influence on their lives; (3) it was predicted that individuals in the shy group would score lower on relationship measures offline compared to non-shys, but there would be no differences between the two groups online; and (4) it was predicted that there would be no significant differences in shyness between the two groups when online. 303 participants (202 females, 100 males and 1 identified as other) completed a survey examining shyness and Internet use. Results supported the first and fourth hypotheses, the second hypothesis was not supported and the third hypothesis was partially supported. To address the second and third research aims, a treatment manual, the Social Fitness program, that has been found to be effective for the treatment of shyness, was adapted for online delivery. No previous research has been conducted on the Social Fitness manual in an online environment. The usability of the site was examined by obtaining feedback from six reviewers. Results showed that the modules had adequate usability. In the third study, the efficacy of the online Social Fitness program was examined. The sample consisted of 296 participants (189 females, 105 males and 2 identified as other) who were randomly allocated to one of three treatment conditions: individual group (who completed the modules online), discussion group (who completed modules online and asked to contribute to a discussion board) or wait-list control group. Participants completed psychological measures of shyness, social phobia, quality of life, and depression pre and post-intervention. Results revealed that there was a significant reduction on measures of shyness, and social phobia in the individual and discussion groups compared to the control group after completion of the online Social Fitness program. There were no differences between the individual and discussion groups. Results support the use of the Social Fitness manual as an online intervention and suggest that it can be successfully adapted for online treatment. Limitations of the studies and suggestions for future research are discussed.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Health Sciences
Keyword(s) Shyness
social phobia
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Created: Mon, 17 Dec 2012, 10:31:18 EST by Brett Fenton
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